Millennium Post

India-Africa tech partnership is the way forward

Experiments on the exchange of knowledge and technologies from India to Africa in the energy space offer solutions for development concerns. Toward this, the Third India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in New Delhi during Oct 26-29 promises to be an event to remember.

Knowledge exchange and transfer are going to be key to achieving the expectations. For this, partnerships within and between countries as mentioned in Goal 17 of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) will be imperative.

One such example is the sharing of Indian knowledge and expertise in the energy space, under the aegis of the Knowledge Partnership Programme supported by the Department of International Development India.

Learning from past experiences and partnerships will help. While the goals are inextricably linked to each other, so are the solutions. Along the way, some lessons were learnt on the formula of successful partnerships. These included (a) responding to a key demand and matching the technology solution with this demand, (b) appropriate identification of partner, (c) involving all stakeholders so that there is collective ownership over the process and the solution, (d) building skill and capacity for sustaining and mainstreaming the technology, (e) involving policymakers for appropriate policy formulation and (f) honoring the spirit of partnership on equity and joint learning principles.

Two experiments - one on green brick technology transfer and the other for entrepreneurship development in the renewable energy space to provide access to the bottom of the pyramid communities - offer insights into just what is possible. 

One of the major drivers of poverty is the lack of access to clean energy, which dramatically undermines health, limits opportunities for education and development, and can reduce a family’s potential to rise out of poverty. Around 19 percent of the global population (1.3 billion) lack access to electricity, and 2.7 billion (39 percent) still rely on traditional three-stone fires for cooking. Over 95 percent of this population lives in rural areas of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nurturing renewable energy entrepreneurs
Financially viable entrepreneurship models for renewable energy (RE) can help bridge the energy divide. An approach used to develop RE enterprises in India has been to support the entrepreneur to incubate the business through a well thought out plan. This approach was one worth sharing.

With technical support from IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) and the CIIE (Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship), the project brought together incubators, entrepreneurs, renewable energy associations and the government to share experiences and learn from the approach in India.

Participants appreciated the support that a structured approach offered to the entrepreneur including financial support systems. A letter of intent was signed between 11 countries, and other learning platforms have been formed.

Arresting deforestation in Malawi
What started out as a pilot experiment in technology transfer for green brick technology transfer from India to Malawi resulted in outcomes that showcase green and good quality construction, entrepreneurship development opportunities, improvement in wages and most important of all, dignified employment opportunities for women.

Malawi has a high urbanisation rate, leading to an increase in the demand for housing - and housing materials, especially bricks.

Traditional brick making in Malawi uses fuelwood: Estimates indicate that 1.7 billion units of burnt clay bricks will be annually required for walling alone. This volume will be produced with 850,000 tonnes of wood. At this rate, Malawi is staring at complete deforestation within 30 years. Alternate brick making technologies are thus imperative and given the demand for bricks, the market is primed.

With technical support from India, a vertical shaft brick kiln (VSBK) was piloted with the Centre for Community Organisation and Development, Malawi, and inaugurated in January 2015. The kiln has since breached the 0.6 million production mark. Compared to traditional bricks, VSBK bricks (a) use half the energy and are yet twice as strong, (b) will dramatically reduce deforestation, (c) save 20-30 percent on construction costs (d) has created new jobs for women - one-third of 200 employees at the kiln are women - earning thrice the average monthly salary and (e) built businesses of the entrepreneur: As of August 2015, business worth $67,000 was generated.

Sandwiched as it were between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) conference in September and the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 later this year, the timing of IAFS is opportune. As expectations for these three events are high, knowledge exchange must take centre stage. For this, partnerships within and between countries as mentioned in Goal 17 of the SDGs will be imperative. While the goals of these three events are inextricably linked to each other, so are the solutions. 

(In arrangement with KPP-IPE Global, an international development consulting group, with whom Indira Khurana is Policy Lead - Resource Scarcity, Food Security and Climate Change, The views expressed are those of KPP-IPE Global)
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